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CIRCA 1755

CIRCA 1755
Each with a pierced shell-form back centered by an armorial cartouche with a foliate and scrolled base, the outswept arms on scrolled spreading supports flanking a solid shell-carved seat with shell-centered and rockwork carved apron on panelled cabriole legs with a crinoline stretcher and leaf-scoll angled block feet (2)
Part of a larger suite supplied to Francis Basset, Esq. (d. 1769) for Tehidy Park, Cornwall in circa 1756.
[Possibly] by descent at Tehidy as follows:
His son Francis Basset, 1st Baron de Dunstanville of Tehidy and 1st Baron Basset of Stratton, Cornwall.
Thence to his daughter, Frances Basset, 2nd Baroness Basset of Stratton, who died unmarried in 1855.
Thence to John Francis Basset, grandnephew of Sir Francis, who died childless in 1869.
Thence to John Francis's brother, Arthur (d. 1870).
Thence to John Francis's other brother, Gustavus (d. 1888).
Thence to Gustavus's adopted son, Arthur Francis, who sold the house in 1915 and offered some of his effects, 'The property of a Nobleman', Knight, Frank and Rutley, Cornwall, 19 July 1918. The suite does not appear to have been included in this sale.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 20 October 1984, lot 209 (the present pair of chairs).

Lot Essay

These banqueting hall chairs are embellished with the arms of Francis Basset (d. 1769), M.P. for Penryn, who would have commissioned them on the celebration of his marriage to Elizabeth St. Aubyn in 1756, the year that he took residence at Tehidy Park, near Cambourne in Cornwall. The Basset family, one of the most powerful families in Cornwall, made their fortune from mining local tin and copper. They came into the manor of Tehidy in the 12th century, while the house was built by John Pendarves Basset in 1734.

The chairs form part of a larger suite apparently thought to comprise two settees and ten chairs (as per the Sotheby's 1982 catalogue entry noted below but the source of this information is not cited). A pair of settees and four chairs of this model were sold, The property of a Gentleman, Sotheby's, London, 2 April 1971, lot 42. These are almost certainly those in Partridge's Summer Exhibition of 1983. Another pair of chairs was sold from the Estate of Bertha B. Hillas, in these Rooms, 30 January 1982, lot 139. A further pair was sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 5 December 1991, lot 217. One of the latter chairs bears an old catalogue label whose footnote reads 'The arms are those of Basset quartering Pendarves and impaling St Aubyn, for Francis Basset of Tehidy, M.P. for Penryn, second son of Francis Basset and his second wife Mary daughter and heiress of John Pendarves Rector of Dunsteighton (sic.), Devon, who married in 1756 Margaret daughter of Sir John St Aubyn, Bart., of Clowance'.

Tehidy descended to Francis Basset, son of Francis, who was created Baron de Dunstanville in 1796, and Baron Basset of Stratton in the following year. An active politician (he also served as M.P. for Penryn and was a prolific writer), the title became extinct upon his death in 1835. The house descended in the family until Arthur Francis Basset sold it in 1915. The contents of the estate were sold locally by Knight, Frank and Rutley on 19 July 1918, although the chairs do not appear to be in this sale despite the early auction label on one of the chairs noted above. Old 18th and 19th century inventories of the house preserved at the Cornwall Record Office do not list individual items so it is not possible to trace whether the suite descended through the family at Tehidy. . The building was destroyed by a fire in 1919.

These spectacular 'Venus' shell backed chairs, appropriate for use in in halls or garden grottos, are associated with the early 17th century Roman architecture of the court architect Inigo Jones (d. 1652). Their design evolves from the type of hall chair introduced in the 1620s at Holland House, London (see R. Edwards, Shorter Dictionary of English Furniture, 1964, p. 118, fig. 12). A related 'Garden Seat' pattern of 1761 features in the third edition of Thomas Chippendale's Director, 1763, pl. XXIV. The model relates closely to a set of eight hall chairs supplied to St Giles's House, Dorset (shown in situ here and illustrated in A. Coleridge, Chippendale Furniture, London, 1968, fig. 366). Another suite of related chairs from Tythrop, Oxfordshire was exhibited at the Art Treasures Exhibition, Bath, 1958 (with Christy's of Kent, Ltd.). Further related chairs with antique-fluted armorial backs and bearing the arms of Nassau, Earl of Rochford were sold Sotheby's, London, 31 May 1968, lot 142.

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